The Josephinum's library heritage is as old as the institution itself, beginning with its foundation by Joseph II (1741-1790) in 1786. Since then, its stocks have been continually widened and expanded through both concerted efforts and many generous gifts from private supporters and major institutions. As a result, numerous special collections, including the Josephina Library now form part of the The History of Medicine Library.
The Library of the Society of Doctors in Vienna
The Society of Doctors in Vienna, founded in 1837, had its own library by 1840, its acquisitions largely originated from gifts and donations. By 1888, this library already held over 11,000 works. In that year, the periodicals previously published by the society were replaced by the Wiener klinische Wochenschrift (Viennese Clinical Weekly), published collaboratively from then by the society and the Medical Faculty of the University of Vienna, another manifestation of the close relationship between the society and the faculty.
The Library of the Society of Doctors in Vienna is the largest private medical library in Austria, and its stocks are of inestimable value. Major parts of the library were transferred to The History of Medicine Library in two permanent loans – in 1976 and 2003 respectively. Although the majority of the works concentrate on the 19th and early 20th centuries, it still contains remarkable holdings from the 17th, and especially the 18th century.
51,000 separata from specialist medical journals and compilations, published between 1860 and 1935, also form part of this special collection. These constitute a unique collection of specialist literature from medical history.
In 1882, the Institute for the Anatomy and Physiology of the Central Nervous System was founded at the instigation of Heinrich Obersteiner (1847-1922). Renamed in The Neurological Institute in 1900, it was believed to be the first scientific establishment for brain research and served as a model for numerous comparable institutes set up later in other countries. The institute specialised in morphological brain research, the normal, comparative and pathological anatomy, and the physiology of the nervous system. After Obersteiner's retirement in 1919, his pupil and assistant Otto Marburg (1874–1948) became the institute's next director, running it until he fled to the USA to escape the Nazis in 1938.
From 1892 onwards, Obersteiner produced a series of publications entitled Arbeiten aus dem Neurologischen Institute an der Universität Wien (Works from the Neurological Institute of the University of Vienna), which included most of the institute’s research and certainly its most significant studies. For most of his life, Obersteiner was a collector of pertinent neurological and psychiatric books. By 1919, this unique and internationally-renowned specialist library, which Obersteiner had donated to the Neurological Institute in 1905, contained around 40,000 volumes. The collection also contains several thousand separata on therapeutic baths around Europe, dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Heinrich Obersteiner Library was transferred to the Josephinum in summer 2013 and opened for the public in 2014.
Wolf Library for Dermatology
Max Wolf, born on 1 June 1892 in Wiener Neustadt, studied medicine and went on to work as a private dermatologist in Vienna. In 1927 he married Margareta Langer (1902–2002). After the Annexation of Austria in March 1938, Max and Margareta Wolf fled Nazi persecution, travelling to the USA via Yugoslavia. In 1940, Max Wolf gained permission to work as a doctor and opened a private practice for skin and venereal conditions in New York.
Max Wolf died in New York on 25 August 1990. He left his valuable library to what was then the Institute for the History of Medicine. Thanks to the efforts of his widow Margareta Wolf and the agency of Karl Holubar (1936-2013), then director of the Institute, Wolf's library was transferred to the Josephinum in Vienna in 1995, where it was installed as a special collection.
The Max and Margareta Wolf Library for Dermatology contains a total of around 1,400 works on the history of dermatology, in around 2,000 volumes. The majority of the collection consists of 19th and 20th century works, but it also contains valuable rarities (7 titles from the 16th century, 31 titles from the 17th century, 116 titles from the 18th century). The form and contents of this special collection has been indexed and it is available via the Medical University of Vienna university library's online catalogue.
Dr. Heinrich Gross Separata Collection
Since 2010 the collection of separata made by Heinrich Gross (1915–2005), previously located in the old stocks of the Psychiatric Medical Library in the Centre for Social Medicine at the Otto-Wagner-Spital, have been housed in The History of Medicine Library at the Josephinum. Gross was the resident physician at the mental hospital in Ybbs from early 1940 to 1943, interrupted by military service, and from November 1940 at Am Spiegelgrund, the Wiener Jugendfürsorgeanstalt (Vienna Young People's Asylum), later renamed in Heilpädagogische Klinik (Clinic for Therapeutic Pedagogy), and later still as the Nervenklinik für Kinder (Children's Mental Clinic)) in the grounds of the Am Steinhof asylum. After 1944, Gross was involved in the murder of children there.
After the war, Gross worked as a senior consultant at Am Spiegelgrund, from 1955 onwards (the site is now called Baumgartner Höhe). Gross continued his research on children's brains, some of which dated from the Nazi era, in the Second Republic and served as a court-appointed expert until 1998.
The collection of 6,699 separata was put together by Heinrich Gross in the course of his professional career. It was maintained as a separate corpus in the library but has not yet been the subject of academic study. The separata are indexed in nominal and key word catalogues; in addition, the first eight handwritten inventories have also been preserved in the library. These cover around half of the collection.